Bringing together long-buried historical information and English's own research in Havana - including interviews with the era's key survivors - Havana Nocturne takes listeners back to Cuba in the years when it was a veritable devil's playground for mob leaders Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Thanks to strong ties with the island's brutal dictator, President Batista, the mob soon owned the biggest luxury hotels and casinos and launched an unprecedented tourist boom.
But their dreams collided with those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others who would lead the country's disenfranchised to overthrow their corrupt government and its foreign partners - an epic cultural battle that English captures in all its sexy, decadent, ugly glory.
©2008 T. J. English; (P)2008 Tantor
"English's engaging narrative reads with the gripping quality of fiction: the dark underworld of Havana comes to life....Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
"Crime writer English...unfolds a story whose main outline will be familiar to any fan of The Godfather: Part II, but whose twists and turns no screenplay could keep up with." (Kirkus Reviews)
Some authoors are meant to write one great book, this could be the one for T. J. English. I believe it will be a seminal book for Cuba and the Mob. What this author does that I loved so much is the multi dimensional perspective of how everyone is portrayed. No one is all good and no one is all evil. People don't think they are doing evil when they do it, the mobsters are cool as hell if you like partying, sex, dancing, gambling and such, but they murdered and extorted. He tells you what they did and why they did it, you can make up your own mind. He contrasts the Mob's stories in with the story of Castro's revolution and their opposite philosophies. Most reviews of this book have been excellent except for a few who I suspect hate Castro for thier own reasons. The fact is as it is , the regime of Batista was corrupt even though the island was a lot of fun, there were many local cubans who resented the fact mobsters and foreigners were making millions from exploiting their homeland, wrong or right the majority rose up and kicked them out. What this author does is paint the picture of the events leading to their revolution and gives all these anecdotal stories to further deepen the understanding of the debauchery going on so one can see how even today it is hard for America's leaders to have credibility with the Cubans who know this history. Think, known U.S. criminals partying it up in Havana whoring out the local women, influencing the politics by kickbacks to the dictator, and with their friends and family living lavishly while the majority of locals lived in squalor. Mobster's still got their due, as a matter of fact one comes away from this book (at least I did) with a respect for the intelligence and vision of Meyer Lansky. This book reads like an exciting movie with multiple plots and flashbacks and an assortment of interesting characters and events. Though the narration feels stiff to start as the story heats up so does the narration.
This book tells the story of how the mob built and lost the casinos in Havana. I downloaded the volume because I knew nothing about the topic and was well rewarded for the effort. The methods used by the mob to build their operations in Cuba and related activities in Las Vegas are told. The characters appear as very real. This is not a pro-Castro or anti-mob book. It is just a great,informative tome.
Havana Nocturne tells the fascinating story of Mafia involvement in Havana in the years before Castro. From the glittering world of casinos and five star hotels to a gritty description of the live sex acts, Nocturne lays it all out...including the complicity of Batista, the experiences of US visitors (including JFK) and the rise, out there in the mountains, of one Fidel Castro. How it all came crashing down, leaving Cuba with a leftwing, as opposed to a rightwing, dictatorship, while besting the Mafia, is an incredible story. Havana Nocturne will have you reading at 3:00 in the morning....Good for history buffs, Mafia buffs, social history buffs and just those who like a ripping good read....
Havana Nocturne is a must read for anyone interested in the 1950s mafia expansion into Cuba. As a great admirer of Meyer Lansky, this book provides valuable insight into his cunning business practices and how the "Little Man" successfully led the Havana Mob. I found myself looking forward to my morning and afternoon commutes just so I could check-in on Lansky and his cohorts.
This book would be an absolute 5-stars for me, but for the narration. It took me several hours to get used to Mel Foster's dry and seemingly monotone voice, which reminded me of the teacher in Ferris Bueller.
Nonetheless, I absolutely recommended this book and hope that all my credits are as well spent.
This is an excellent, well researched and very listenable audiobook. T.J. English's prose is crisp and engaging and is matched with solid narration. To those reviewers who complain that the work lacks detail or that English is an apologist for Castro, I would disagree completely. English doesn't shy away from Castro's shady beginnings with the gangsterismo movement, nor does English ever contend that the Cuba revolution was not imbued with the spirit of both Marx and Marti right from its inception. I found the author balanced in his presentation of historical detail, not left wing in the slightest.
This is a true crime novel about the mob in Cuba, not a historical monograph assessing the Castro regime, and as such it succeeds and entertains.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
I started this having no idea that the Mob had been involved in Cuba. In fact, I knew nothing about Cuba and its relationship with the United States so it was quite interesting to learn how the relationship could have been much different now if the American government and the mobsters had picked a different horse to back, or perhaps if Castro had been killed in one of his early coup attempts.
Anyway, it was a slow trek through the story because none of the politics, or the mob relations or the characters involved were familiar to me. But it was enlightening in how it explained the background to the current US-Cuba relations.
The narrator is okay... a bit boring but at least he's understandable.
I have another book narrated by Mel Foster and I will be SURE to avoid him from now on. Get this only if you prefer someone who speaks deep in his throat (I expect him to choke any moment) and uses an absolute monotone that makes him sound like he's about to pass out. This listener will ready to pass out also. B-O-R-I-N-G.
Some narrators could read a phone book and make it sound interesting. Foster is just the opposite: he can read a thriller and make it SOUND like a phone book!
Publishers are terrified to use female narrators. Maybe they should try someone new because this deep throat monotone doesn't work.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
I love the word 'nocturne'. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines it as "a work of art dealing with evening or night; especially a dreamy pensive composition for the piano." T. J. English uses the title "Havana Nocturne" to refer to the Havana that the American mob dreamed up, created and nourished, only to have it crushed by revolution.
If Havana from the end of World War II until 1959, was a work of art, Meyer Lansky was a mobster who didn't play games of chance, and the artist who gambled on building a Mecca the Pearl of the Antilles. Lansky was the money man who shrewdly pegged Fulgencio Batista, an up and coming Cuban military officer, as a potential ally in developing Havana. Batista was an elitist snob, easily corrupted - and became President and then military dictator of Cuba.
A more prescient man might have put his money on Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul. "Havana Nocturne" profiles Fidel's radicalization, imprisonment and release, and revolutionary rise. Fidel's ascent caused Batista's fall, and sent the mob scuttling out of Havana and back to Florida, leaving vast luxury state of the art hotels to decay in an era of embargo. Cuban sex workers, card sharps, and pit bosses stayed behind, too. Lansky literally lost his mistress in 1959 - as in, the revolution happened, she moved from the apartment he had her ensconced in, and he never found her again.
If Havana was a work of art, it was a tawdry, glitzy, sometimes crass nouveau riche creation of an accountant. Lansky may have had unorthodox methods to solve problems (he had muscle that straight businessmen only dream about) but he was essentially a CFO. He lacked an appreciation for a subtle, nuanced approach to tourism or business. Now that economic relationships are being normalized, it will be interesting to see what happens with former mob holdings that Fidel nationalized.
T. J. English's analysis of the rise and fall of mob gaming as it paralleled the rise of Cuban communism was an elegant study in contrasts."Havana Nocturne" sounds like a well researched work. Audible narrations don't generally have footnotes, but sources were referenced in the text.
The title of this review comes from a con game played in Havana: unsuspecting would-be gamblers were seduced into fraudulent bets by seemingly innocent but admiring and enthusiastic locals. Lansky thought he'd successfully run that show out of Cuba.
The narration was fine, but there's a pretty vexing editing problem. Chapters 6 and 7 repeat as Audible Chapters 8 and 9. It took me a bit to figure out what happened - I thought I'd somehow rewound. So, mentally knock off almost 2 hours from the book.
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Anyone interested in Cuba needs to listen to this book. There is a reason the Cuban people backed Castro in the 50s. Corrupt leader Batista supported the mob run casinos. Havana was the most decadent city in the world and most Cubans were in abject poverty. This is a well researched well written book.
For anyone interested in Cuba, this was a fascinating book, taught me much about Cuban culture and history; excellent reader, too.
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